Thursday, January 27, 2011


San Francisco is know for its freaks. . . especially when Colby Keller is in town.  On my most recent visit I came across two notable examples: a large obese Satanist in a motorized wheelchair dressed smartly in a black nylon pentagram blazer, face tattoos and top hat . . . and an ancient gray-hair, perpendicular at the waist, huddled over an equally ancient walker, smack dab in the middle Polk street, slowly bobbing up and down to "Super Freak" blaring from a nearby liquor store.  I was tempted to pull out my cell phone and snap a pic of both, but I couldn't bear to inflict the insult.  Its rude right? 

How appropriate that I should find myself in SFMOMA that very day to experience "Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance, and the Camera Since 1870".  The exhibition traces our complicated relationship to the public disclosure of private acts.  In addition to documentary evidence of espionage and paparazzi culture, "Exposed" catalogs the artist's response to voyeurism and surveillance.  As you might expect, sex and violence predominate, ranging from Andy Warhol's "Blow Job" to surreptitious police photographs of militant suffragettes.

Highlights include: Oliver Lutz, who uses a special black pigment to "hide" his paintings.  The image can only be "seen" with the aid of an infrared camera (example above). 

Photography by artist Shizuka Yokomizo (above).  Asked to volunteer on Craig's List, random strangers stand in front of their windows at a particular hour at night where, unseen, Shizuka takes their picture.  

A slide-show of Nan Goldin's photography (with a pretty great soundtrack).  

Work by Japanese photographer Kohei Yoshiyuki, who captures exhibitionists and voyeurs in a Japanese public park.   

Photography by Elena Dorfman whose work explores men who form relationships with sex dolls. 

How funny that my mother would send me an email the same day I went to see "Exposed" explaining how to determine if a mirror is 2-way or not: If you touch your finger to the mirror and there is a gap between your real finger and its reflection no need to worry.  If there is no gap, get excited.  You're being watched. 

"Exposed" also offers quite a bit of documentary photography and video, some of it surprising.  Did you know that the same photographer responsible for the famous image of a young victim of US napalm attacks during the Vietnam War, Nick Ut, also captured a famous photograph of Paris Hilton crying on her way to jail?  



  1. Have you seen the doc, "Tea Room"? It is a collection of surveillance video's from the 60's of men having sexy times in a public restroom

  2. There are so many cool things in this post! And very well-connected. I know Nan Goldin's photos pretty well, but I've never heard of Yokomizo, I'ma gonna have to look him up!

  3. I haven't seen "Tea Room". Do you know where I might find a copy? I couldn't find it on Netflix.

  4. It was playing at the Whitney's biennial. I forget what year it was, I haven't seen it anywhere else unfortunately

  5. Great exhibition it is, saw it at Tate last year and mesmerised. Your post made me look at my notes and search the net left and right or additional information.